School district activity fees increasing

Posted: Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Students and their parents are going to see some changes when they sign up for activities in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District this year.

The school board Monday night approved the 2003-04 co-curricular activities handbook with some revisions inserted by both the Kenai Peninsula School Activities Association and board members themselves.

One of the most significant changes is the increased price of participation in activities.

KPSAA recommended the increases after the board cut travel funding from the district budget for activities. According to Dave Spence, executive secretary of KPSAA, the increases are designed to help schools pay for organized travel to and from the activities.

High school sports currently costing $100 will cost $150. Those activities include football, basketball, volleyball, wrestling, Nordic skiing, swimming and hockey. High school activities costing $65 will cost $100. Those include cross-country running, cheerleading, performance dance, soccer and track.

The per-family cap at the high school level also will increase from $350 to $500.

At the middle school level, the cost of activities including cross-country running, soccer, Nordic skiing, volleyball, wrestling, track and basketball will increase from $30 to $45.

The participation fee increases held up the passage of the handbook at the last school board meeting June 2. Board members got confused over the language of the vote and unintentionally failed an amendment that would have eliminated the fee increase. They rejected the entire handbook because of the presence of the fees, and the handbook came back to the board for reconsideration Monday.

This time, however, the board had a little more information. At the last meeting, the elimination of the co-curricular travel fund had been approved, but only in a budget full of "place holders." It wasn't until after Gov. Frank Murkowski approved the state's education funding bill on June 9 that the district knew what its revenue would look like. Even though the district did see an increase in state and local funding, it was not enough to reinstate the travel fund. (See related story, page A-1.)

Several board members, as well as members of the public, had problems with the fee increases.

Board member Al Poindexter insisted it would prevent many young people from participating in school activities.

"I believe education and school activities should be available to all kids," he said. "I think by raising fees at this time, we're going to develop two classes of people. The school district has got to figure out a different way of doing business."

Board Vice President Sammy Crawford said she agreed with Poindexter to an extent.

"Raising activity fees is not a positive task," she said. "But ... the decisions of the state Legislature made impacts on every level. I'd rather see activities continue at an increased fee than not continue at all."

Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, speaking in his role as a Skyview High School teacher and coach, also spoke on the matter.

Carey compared himself to a biblical tax collector, bringing in revenue for the district as a coach. He said he needs to know what direct impact the increased fees will have before being comfortable with them.

"As it is, I'm the unfair tax collector," he said. "I do it because I have the authority."

Earlier in the evening, however, Carey also asked the school board and administration to think carefully about the safety implications of cutting the co-curricular travel budget.

"I hope we're very attentive to safety issues so we don't end up with students in other students' cars," he said. "I'd rather see activities reduced and transportation funded."

Throughout the course of discussion, some school board members had expressed the same opinion.

Board member Debra Mullins, however, pointed out that competitions for this year already have been scheduled and that there may be Title IX problems with funding some activities and not others.

Overall, the board stuck with its decision not to fund extracurricular travel.

And, board members voted 5-1 to approve the handbook, complete with participation fee increases. But not before a few board members added amendments.

An amendment approved at the last board meeting requires athletic directors to provide quarterly statements indicating where money goes. The measure is an effort to gauge where co-curricular expenses are and to provide accountability for funding.

And, an amendment introduced Monday by board President Joe Arness changed the way suspended students are allowed back in the game.

At present, he said, the rules create an unintended consequence for students who are suspended from activities.

"A 30-day suspension becomes a 40-day suspension because Alaska statute requires 10 practices before a game," he said.

That can be detrimental to a student's entire athletic season and can be unfair given the reason for the suspension.

Arness's amendment would allow a student who has completed counseling requirements and gained administrator approval to return to practices for the last 10 days of a 30-day activity suspension. It does not apply to students who are suspended from classes.

Arness pointed out that the amendment officially has not gone before the KPSAA board, but all officers had seen it and approved of the idea.

Superintendent Donna Peterson also approved of the idea.

"This fix at least helps us get to a point of fairness," she said.

The amendment passed unanimously.

The board also approved as one of its year-long goals a plan to begin a broad discussion of the co-curricular program in the district for the coming years, opening the door to what may be future changes.

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